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Grill-Muttawakil team back with little to show

New Delhi, Oct. 20: A CBI team has returned from Kabul after questioning Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, who was the foreign minister of the ousted Taliban regime and one of the key witnesses of the 1999 Indian Airlines hijacking.

The two-member team, led by deputy inspector-general Lok Nath Behera, returned on Friday after a four-day visit. The agency got permission to visit Kabul after nearly two years of relentless efforts.

Although CBI officials are tight-lipped on the outcome of the questioning, it is learnt that Muttawakil told the investigators he was tasked to speak to the passengers after the hijacked flight IC-814 landed at Kabul airport in December 1999.

Muttawakil acted as the chief spokesman of the Taliban regime, negotiating with the hijacked flight crew, Pakistani and Indian officials.

The CBI has not been able to extract much information from the questioning of the Taliban leader that could take the hijacking case going on in a Patiala court forward. Muttawakil is believed to be under house arrest in Kabul.

The FBI has already questioned Muttawakil at length on his alleged role in the IC-814 hijacking. It had also registered a hijacking case as one of the passengers on board the Indian Airlines flight was an American.

The FBI, however, has not shared information it had gathered from Muttawakil’s interrogation or on the IC-814 hijacking case as a whole with the CBI, despite repeated efforts.

Even the documents seized by US forces from a Taliban hideout during the war in Afghanistan were not handed over to the CBI, which could have thrown more light on the nitty-gritty of the conspiracy, government sources said.

A senior government official said the CBI had cooperated with the FBI when the latter had come to Delhi for the hijacking probe, but added that the agency did not receive a similar response from the Americans.

The hijacking had a dramatic end since the Indian government had to free three terrorists — including Masood Azhar, who later formed the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed outfit, and Omar Sheikh, later jailed for killing US journalist Daniel Pearl — in exchange for the passengers.

Kabul terror denial

The Afghan foreign ministry has categorically denied Pakistan’s charge that India is operating a number of terrorist camps from Afghanistan.

It also pointed out that the only terrorist activities “still visible” within some parts of the country involved the “remnants of Taliban”.

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